Successful Dinner & Movie Fundraiser

Successful Dinner & Movie Fundraiser

Thank you to Tashie George of IfriMarket for hosting and sponsoring a successful Dinner & Movie fundraiser on November 3. Thank you to our Classroom Heroes who raised $635 to support Liberian Youth in our training courses. Thank you to Taste of Africa for the second (or third) helpings of delicious food. And thank you to the cast and crew of the Out of My Hand movie!

Taste of Africa catered the food for this event which included cornbread, Jollof Rice, potato salad, hot pepper soup, and more. Photo by Boyd Morson

About 20 people gathered that day. They learned more about Uniting Distant Stars and how we are helping Liberia’s young men and women gain independence with trade careers. They networked with each other. They ate Jollof Rice, potato salad, corn bread, and much more (food table photo take by Boyd Morson). And they sat back and enjoyed an entertaining movie.

UDS U.S. Co-Founder & Executive Director sharing information about our programs and the 75 graduated students of March 2018. Photo taken by Florkime Paye.

Tashie is committed to holding this event each year, and we are grateful for her continued support!

A Dinner & Movie Fundraiser – November 3 – 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM

A Dinner & Movie Fundraiser – November 3 – 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM

You are cordially invited to a Dinner & Movie Fundraising organized by Tashie George, owner of IfriMart. This is your time to stay up late, eat delicious Liberian Cuisine, and watch a compelling movie as daylight savings occurs overnight.

The featured movie is Out of My Hand (PG-13): a film about “a struggling Liberian rubber plantation worker risks everything to discover a new life as a Yellow Cab driver in New York City.” The film is directed by Takeshi Fukunaga, and the leading role is played by Bishop Blay.

The dinner will be prepared by Taste of Africa with Jollof Rice (popular one-pot dish), potato salad, fufu (like a dumpling), soup, chicken, ginger beer, donuts, and cornbread.

The program will highlight the work Uniting Distant Stars is doing to support young men and women in Liberia as they receive valuable vocational training in our center.

Buy Your Tickets Today

Highlights from 2016 Christmas Celebration

Highlights from 2016 Christmas Celebration

In celebrating our successes, we are celebrating YOU, our highly valued Star Supporters! Uniting Distant Stars held our first-ever Christmas Celebration at our new training center for over 350 children and youth on December 26. 
The event ran from noon to 7PM (GMT) and it was a fun-filled day. The children performed skits, cultural dances, sang favorite songsand shared funny stories. They were served a nourishing meal of Jollof Rice (Liberian favorite), Potato Salad and Chicken. They participated in a raffle draw for three prizes: 1st – Bag of Rice, 2nd – Package of Breakfast Food such as Quaker Oats, and 3rd – Backpack (made by our youth) filled with school Supplies.  
Our team of dedicated volunteers worked around the clock in preparing the food and activities for this highly appreciated event. A heartfelt Thanks to AB, Blessing, Deborah, Godfrey, Ishmail, Korlu, Korpu, Ma Siah, Mamie, Princess, Roseline, Saah, Umaru and all volunteers who made this celebration a joyous occasion!
Please take a moment and watch this short video showing the photos of our children and youth celebrating YOU!



Thank you for making 2016 our best year!!! 
Liberia: Delivering School Supplies to Rogma International

Liberia: Delivering School Supplies to Rogma International

Uniting Distant Stars supporters and volunteers continued to give children and youth in Liberia a reason to be happy with our 2015 school supply campaign. On September 13, Rogma International School in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, held their back-to-school program. This was the second of series of three programs that started with City of Joy School on September 6 and ended with Russ Wood Christian Academy on October 11.

Rogma’s location required UDS to transport our team in three vehicles, because it was too far to walk and it was raining heavily. Our Liberian Co-Founder and Country Director, Kelvin Fomba, enlisted two volunteers to carry 24 UDS team members and 6 invited guests to the program.

Rogma International Staff and UDS Leaders.
Kelvin and Daniel Lloyd, UDS volunteer, delivered a huge surprise to our staff and youth group by having shirts made for the group that they paid for. UDS was making their debut in Paynesville and wanted to make our presence known as an organization serving children and youth in Liberia. The photos below show our team proudly wearing their beautiful shirts.

UDS volunteers and youth group standing outside Rogma’s school
UDS Youth Group displaying the back of their shirts.
Another highlight came from Rogma’s community when they organized a cookout, which UDS contributed $40 towards food. Each child received a bowl of Jellof (aka Jollof) Rice, a popular dish in Liberia and other West African nations. This recipe will be included in our Recipes for Learning Cookbook currently in development by our dedicated project team.

Rogma Students eating their Jellof Rice. Each student was served a bowl by volunteers.

Kelvin standing in the middle talking with children as they eat their Jellof Rice.
After eating their delicious meal, it was time to distribute supplies. Students were called up individually to receive their packet of school items. Kelvin and Moses Lahai, UDS volunteer, handed out gift packages to Rogma’s aspiring students from our Star Supporters generous donations. As shown in the four photos below, this day uplifted the hopes of children attending Rogma International School.

The program provided entertainment form children and youth. Our youth group created a play called “The Greedy Man” and it was performed by three of its members. The performance is filmed in three short video clips with our youth speaking Liberian English, which a brief summary is provided for each scene.

Scene 1: A teenage boy invites an older man to share his food. However, this older man, who happens to bring his own spoon, eats all the food without any concern for the boy. This clip features the man drinking from a mineral water from a bag. This is the plastic we use for our Backpacks for Peace project.

Scene 2:The boy’s sister, who prepared his food, instructs him to not let this greedy man eat all his food again.

Scene 3:When the teenager sees the greedy man approaching him, he quickly takes appropriate action to prevent him from eating his food.

The moral of this story was to teach young people how to share and be good to each other. This was UDS Youth Group first performance and it had Rogma’s children laughing throughout. Our youth decided to use performing arts to address social concerns facing youth in Liberia.

The program ended with UDS giving Rogma some reading textbooks, kick balls and other supplies. The reading textbooks were donated in 2012 from a supporter, who is a teacher at St.Vincent de Paul School in Minnesota. We shipped nine boxes with our annual supply drives in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Our original plan was to send all the books in one shipment, but paying $75 per box prevented us from fulfilling this goal. We definitely need help shipping the 19 remaining boxes to get these books in Liberian children’s hands. Please read our Learning Center post to learn how to help.

Kelvin sharing to Rogma’s community about the other supplies being donated to their school.

Our wonderful supporters made this program a huge success. Both parents and school staff were praising our generous donors for supporting their children’s educational needs. Please view additional photos in our Facebook album.

Rogma Students holding their gift packages of school supplies.

Uniting Distant Stars Teams in Liberia and the U.S. offer our heartfelt Thanks and Appreciation for helping the children and youth we serve!

Photos and videos taken by Rodney John, UDS Volunteer

My Recent Trip to Liberia – Part 2

Before I continue on with the recap of my recent trip to Liberia, I want to Thank all of you who provided comments about last week’s blog post! Your feedback is very much appreciated and gave me the incentive to keep blogging! Now let’s get back to business…

Well, the main purpose of this trip was the healing and reconciliation conference. While Liberia has maintained peace for over eight years, the healing has just begun and it will take more than this two-week trip to mend the wounds that were inflicted in 14 years of war.

Granted there have been attempts to bring this nation together since the war ended in 2003. For example in 2005, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established, which was similar to the ones in Rwanda and South Africa. The purpose of these commissions is to gather the stories of the victims and give them a chance to face the individuals who either caused them great harm, and/or killed someone they loved. Usually, these proceedings will give amnesty to those who admit to the atrocities they have committed. However, there are exceptions for those deemed the worse perpetrators, which they could be tried for crimes against humanity at an international war crimes tribunal.

For about four years, the TRC worked tirelessly on interviewing countless people in Liberia and the Diaspora in the U.S. They submitted their final report in July 2009 with their findings and recommendations. I happened to be in Liberia when the news broke about this report. From what I observed, there was cause for confusion, anger and in some cases fear. Majority of the Liberian people had no access to the entire report, so they were limited to what was being disseminated through the media. They got to hear some of the disturbing finding such as the list of the most notorious perpetrators and the heinous acts they committed. Also, it listed individuals (included President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf) who should be banned from running for any political office for a 30-year period, and people/businesses (included Firestone Corporation) that are still being investigated for economic crimes that sustained the war.

Up to now, none of the recommendations have been implemented. In fact, no one in Liberia has faced any criminal charges for the atrocities committed in this 14-year civil war that included torture, rape, kidnapping, dismembering, killing, forced conscription of child soldiers, and other egregious acts. This has allowed certain former war lords and key perpetrators to freely run for all levels of political office including president, which some were elected in the 2005 elections. Some of you might be aware that Former President Charles Taylor is currently on trial at the Hague, but this is for alleged war crimes in the neighboring country of Sierra Leone…clearly not Liberia.

It would seem our arrival to Liberia, shortly after the results were announced from the October 11 election, was nothing more than miraculous. As a result, we would be on the ground for the November 8 run off presidential election since no candidate received more than 50% of the votes. This seemed like a perfect time to talk about healing and reconciliation as the Liberian people prayed and hoped for a peaceful outcome to their second post-war election cycle.

We spent our first week in Kakata, a thriving small city in Margibi County that is located about 15 to 20 minutes from the Firestone Rubber Plantation. It is the home of prominent education institutions such as BWI (mentioned in last week’s blog) and Cuttington University. It is also the training center for the newly recruited Peace Corp volunteers.

We were warmly received by the people of Kakata from the first night we arrived. They had been eagerly waiting our arrival for the past couple months. Their enthusiasm made our first week in Liberia a joyous time.

We officially started the conference on Wednesday, November 2, which was held at the Kakata’s City Hall. We offered a variety of daily workshops in the morning and afternoon. Then during the evenings the revival meetings were held, which included a fundraiser for the people of Kakata to partner with the LMA on completing some important initiatives. These projects included a public library, microphones for radio stations, grating primary dirt roads, and a motor bike for the police station.

During our stay, we were graciously hosted by the Kakata’s Police Chief Douwe Goldoe and her staff. Chief Goldoe had the opportunity to visit Minnesota this past year and was able to participate in some training sessions with the St. Paul police department. She is amazing woman with a strong spirit to serve her nation. She went out of her way to ensure that we were well taken care of during our stay in Kakata. Mid-week she invited us to the police station where she gave us a formal greeting. Click here to watch a short video clip of her introducing some of her staff during our welcome visit. Right after this meeting, she took us to her place for amazing lunch that included Togbogee and Rice plus some fresh, sweet pineapple–never tasted anything like it in Minnesota.

 Kakata’s police force (taken by Pastor Destaye Crawford)

 Kakata’s police force continued (taken by Pastor Destaye Crawford)
 One of my teammates Rev. Zephaniah Kauffey standing by 
Chief Goldoe in her kitchen. (taken by Pastor Destaye Crawford)

Going back to the conferences, we were successful in engaging the people of Kakata. We offered a variety of presentations that focused on forgiveness, praise and worship, church leadership, healing and reconciliation, and much more. We had originally planned for four days of conferences, but changed it to three. Each day, the first presentation was for the entire audience and then we offered two during the three breakout sessions. I delivered my presentation “Transforming a Shared Suffering into a Shared Healing: on the first day during the second session. I will dedicate one of my future posts on showing my PowerPoint presentation and briefly explaining each slide.

Here I am presenting in Kakata wearing a dress given to me 
from one of my teammates, Pastor Destaye Crawford!

The nightly revival meetings were very impressive. Liberians know how to praise and worship by singing and dancing with great joy! We watched in amazement as the crowd grew each night– from Wednesday to Saturday–to where it was standing room only. Also, the fundraising was a huge success, because each night the people exceeded that day’s goal. I believe the first night the goal was to raise $10,000 (Liberian dollars) and the final total was $15,000 LD. This amount in USD is about $214, which may seem like a nothing to us. However, for people who live on meager budgets, this amount was quite amazing. Their effort supports something I have learned from my experiences in Liberia is that ‘those with the least have the most to give.

Here are some pictures from the nightly revival meetings:


These are the ushers for the nightly revival meetings
Dr. Rev. Josef Howard, LMA’s Executive Director was the team leader. 
He was very instrumental in ensuring our teams success.

 Dr. Rev. Francis Tabla, LMA’s Asst. Executive Director gave some 
powerful sermons and engaged the audience in the nightly fundraisers.

Another plus about our trip was the food! While in Kakata a few of the local pastor wives cooked our daily meals. We usually ate our breakfast at the guest house before heading to the City Hall. We broke for lunch at 1PM, right after our last breakout session and ate at the conference site. I must say, these women did an outstanding job in preparing our Liberian cuisine. I got to enjoy some of my favorites such as Jollof Rice, Potato Greens, Check Rice and Gravy, Cassava Leaf and many more. I should mention that the LMA provided a free breakfast and lunch for all attendees, which probably gave many the opportunity to have more than one meal a day.

Here are pictures of us enjoying some Potato Greens and Rice, which these photos were taken from my teammate Pastor Destaye Crawford’s camera (she is from Ethiopia and now a U.S. citizen).

 More of my teammates (from left to right) 
Rev. Zephaniah Kauffey and Rev. Daniel Goba

 Rev. Destaye Crawford and me (wearing a borrowed 
Africa dress from another teammate Naomi Hard)
 Conference attendees

 Me and Rev. Alexander Collins

 Some of the women who cooked and served the food
 A pot full of sweet potato greens

 Serving the rice, which is a major staple in Liberians diet
Enjoying a break (from left to right): Naomi Hard (our teams RN), 
Rev. Goba, Rev. Crawford, and Ref. Kaffey.
Now one of my favorite things to do while in Liberia is interacting with the young people. I came prepared with some beach balls to give out to kids that I came in contact with. I tried at first to blow these up for them, but soon discovered their young lungs were much better for the task. Below are two young boys who were quick to inflate their new balls and gave a victory smile when they were done.

For the most part, the children of Liberia love getting their picture or video taken. With the advent of the digital camera, this has made it more fun since the kids are eager to see their picture or watch their video. I recently published one of my videos on YouTube where some of the local children gathered together to wave and smile at my captive audience. Please click here to watch these beautiful children say hello to you!
I had posted this video on my Facebook page on November 23 with this comment: “Life is so precious and the children of Liberia always remind me of this fact! Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. So, as you watch this video and see these beautiful smiling faces waving at you, please realize that these children probably have one meal a day, living in a home or hut with no bathroom, and too poor to attend school. These children experience more misery that most of us, and yet they still can smile and have hope!”
I believe this is a good place to end and we will continue next week about the second leg of this trip. Until then, I wish you all good health, warmth and happy times!